Players react to news Michigan will play HS football in fall
Michigan became the first state to fully rescind a postponement of its fall football season this week, declaring that games will start the weekend of Sept. 18. The decision could have a significant impact on college football recruiting across all levels.
The Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) had previously announced on August 14 that football only would be moved to the spring. That decision was overturned on Thursday, Sept. 3, after Michigan’s governor issued Executive Order No. 176 that allowed for organized sports to resume.
The decision was met with immediate elation from high school football players throughout the state.
“Literally the best news I’ve heard all year,” said Warren Mott senior defensive end Tyson Watson, who is committed to Michigan State. “I just can’t wait to play.”
East Lansing receiver and Michigan commit Andrel Anthony was also excited to hear Thursday's news.
“I was on the way to practice and I started getting Twitter notifications and seeing that Gov. (Gretchen) Whitmer said it’s being reversed,” Anthony said. “(My) whole mood changed. Practice energy was awesome today, and it’s a huge relief after the news a couple weeks ago.”
“We were really in shock,” added Detroit Martin Luther King junior linebacker Blake Bailiff. “We had all been let down with the coronavirus situation – seven months is a long time – so it was really exciting (when the news broke).”
A spring season presented many issues for senior prospects slated to continue playing football at the college level. Macomb Dakota three-star De’Javion Stepney, a Central Michigan commit, said earlier this week he was “going back and forth,” on whether to play a spring senior season as he weighed injury concerns against not letting his teammates down. Now that the season has returned to the fall, though, Stepney’s decision is made.
“I’m definitely going to play this season,” Stepney said Thursday evening. “I feel that I have a lot to prove and I love my teammates. (I’m) ready to go to war with them.”
Thursday’s reversal was particularly important for junior prospects like Bailiff who had not seen their recruitments take off yet. With 35 other states playing a fall season, scholarship spots may largely have been spoken for by the time remaining states kick off next spring.
A return to fall football is also important for those prospects in the senior class who had yet to make college commitments. Charlevoix linebacker Luke Snyder was on the cusp of seeing his recruitment take off before everything shut down in March. A first team all-state performer as a junior, Snyder was generating interest from the likes of Indiana and Central Michigan, but both schools wanted to see him in camp before offering a scholarship.
“He was one of those kids where some of the colleges we talked with, they had him as a camp kid,” said Charlevoix head coach Don Jess. “Once camps got eliminated, where does that put you? You have to get some film out there, and hopefully these coaches will be able to get out and come watch him play this fall.”
The late start means Michigan will play an abbreviated season of six regular season games. All teams will then proceed to a postseason that is set to conclude with state championships the weekend of Dec. 4-5.
Fall camp at high school programs across the state had already been up and running for over a week before the state announced the season was moving to the spring. Additional practice time had been allotted to schools, however, and most schools continued to stay sharp in the interim.
“Obviously, we were pretty down when the season got canceled,” Jess said. “We’ve been doing our two practices a week, and the other three days we have been lifting and conditioning. Our kids have stayed focused the entire time.”
Detroit Cass Tech and four-star offensive lineman Raheem Anderson will open up play against crosstown rival Martin Luther King on Sept. 18.
“We stayed ready, so we don’t have to get ready,” Anderson said.
Although a fall football season is now permissible by the MHSAA, there are individual school districts in the state that are opting out. The Lansing School District, which encompasses the state capitol, had preempted the state athletic association in August by announcing its postponement of a fall football season. The district reiterated its plans to forego a fall football season on Thursday, following the MHSAA’s announcement. At this time the MHSAA will not be making accommodations for postseason play for those schools or districts that postpone football until next spring.
The state’s remaining schools will join programs in neighboring states of Ohio and Indiana, as well as 33 others across the country, that are going forward with some degree of a fall high school football season.